IN THE INTEREST OF M.C., Minor Child, M.J., Father, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine
Dalton, District Associate Judge.
father appeals from the juvenile court's order
terminating his parental rights to his child. AFFIRMED.
Timothy J. Tupper of Tupper Law Firm, Davenport, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Gretchen W. Kraemer and
Janet L. Hoffman (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys
General, for appellee State.
Charles F. Elles, Bettendorf, attorney and guardian ad litem
for minor child.
Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
MULLINS, Presiding Judge.
father appeals the juvenile court's order terminating his
parental rights to his child, M.C., born in 2015. He argues
the State did not make reasonable efforts to reunify him with
his child because it failed to provide visitation or services
and failed to timely investigate appropriate relative
placements. He also claims his constitutional due process
rights were violated because of the State's alleged
failure to make reasonable efforts.
September 2015, M.C. was only a few months old when her
mother voluntarily placed her and the mother's older
child, C.R., with Safe Families for Children because she was
homeless and suffering from mental illness. The mother was
unable to resume care of her children, and the Iowa
Department of Human Services (DHS) assumed their custody
because the father was incarcerated pending a probation
revocation hearing. In January 2016, M.C. was placed in family
foster care while C.R. remained with her host family, who
later obtained a foster care license to continue caring for
April 2016, the juvenile court adjudicated both children
CINA. M.C.'s father remained in prison throughout her
CINA case. In October, the court held a combined permanency
and termination hearing. In December, the juvenile court
terminated M.C.'s father's parental rights pursuant
to Iowa Code section 232.116(1)(e) and (h)
review termination-of-parental-rights proceedings de novo.
In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d 212, 219 (Iowa 2016). When a
court terminates parental rights on more than one ground, we
may affirm the order on any of the statutory grounds
supported by clear and convincing evidence. In re
D.W., 791 N.W.2d 703, 707 (Iowa 2010). "We are not
bound by the juvenile court's findings of fact, but we do
give them weight, especially in assessing the credibility of
witnesses." In re M.W., 876 N.W.2d at 219
(quoting In re A.M., 843 N.W.2d 100, 110 (Iowa
2014)). Our primary consideration is the best interests of
the child. In re J.E., 723 N.W.2d 793, 798 (Iowa
father claims the State failed to prove it offered reasonable
efforts to reunify him with his child and achieve permanency.
Specifically, he complains DHS did not provide him any visits
with his child while he was incarcerated or offer any
parenting services. He also complains he repeatedly asked DHS
to place M.C. with various paternal relatives, all of whom
lived out of state, but DHS failed to timely investigate and
place the child with appropriate family members.
State must make reasonable efforts to reunify the family as
quickly as possible after a child has been removed from his
or her parents' care and custody. Iowa Code §
232.102(7). The reasonable-efforts requirement is not,
however, "viewed as a strict substantive requirement of
termination." In re C.B., 611 N.W.2d 489, 493
(Iowa 2000). Instead, it "impacts the [State's]
burden of proving those elements of termination which require
reasonable efforts." Id. In determining whether
reasonable efforts have been made, the court considers
"[t]he type, duration, and intensity of services or
support offered or provided to the child and the child's
family." Iowa Code § 232.102(10)(a)(1). "[T]he
nature and extent of visitation is always controlled by the
best interests of the child." In re M.B., 553
N.W.2d 343, 345 (Iowa Ct. App. 1996).
section 232.116(1)(h), the court may terminate parental
rights if the court finds the State has proved by clear and
convincing evidence the child (1) is three years old or
younger; (2) has been adjudicated CINA; (3) has been removed
from the physical custody of the parents for at least six of
the last twelve months, or the last six consecutive months
and any trial period at home has been less than thirty days;
and (4) cannot be returned to the custody of the parents at
the time of the termination hearing. With regard to
termination under this paragraph, "[t]he State must show
reasonable efforts as part ...